Unexpected physical effects of pregnancy on your body

Being pregnant is a wonderful, beautiful, life-changing period of time – but you may experience some unexpected (but normal) physical changes that can be uncomfortable through your pregnancy journey. More often this is due to the hormones surging through your body, preparing for birth and the fact that your baby is taking up more and more space.

Pregnant mum lying on the couch while looking tired with one hand on her baby bump

If you are worried or experience sudden physical changes/symptoms seek guidance from your midwife or doctor.

Here are some lesser-known effects of pregnancy.

Digestive changes

It’s not pretty, but it is totally normal to have digestive changes during pregnancy. Progesterone, known as one of the “pregnancy hormones,” influences the soft tissues and may lead to digestive tract taking longer to move food through your stomach and intestines. As your pregnancy progresses week-by-week your baby is growing in your abdomen which may lead to some uncomfortable situations.

Heartburn / indigestion

As your baby grows, you may find that your food portion size changes and certain foods (e.g. spicy foods) may cause you to have discomfort or ‘acid’ regurgitating at the back of your throat. This is that progesterone hormone relaxing the valve between the oesophagus and stomach leading to partially digested food tracking up from the stomach.

You may find that certain foods result in more heartburn; you can avoid these if needed. Taking time to eat, sipping water/milk with your meal and sitting upright after a meal may minimise heartburn. Talk with your midwife or doctor if you are worried as there are some medicinal treatments that can help to relieve heartburn.

Stools

It is normal for your usual stool frequency to change. Some women experience change in the stool itself: firmer or softer poos, going less frequent to more. Again, this can change throughout the pregnancy. Constipation is fairly common for most women and can make you feel quite uncomfortable at times. Talk to your midwife or doctor about increasing the fibre in your diet, and whether pear or prune juice can help soften the poo or if they recommend an alternative laxative. Keeping active, gentle walking, yoga or swimming can also help to keep both your body and mind in a healthier place. Talk with your doctor or midwife for further advice if you experience pain or notice any blood when passing a stool.

Haemorrhoids

Some women experience haemorrhoids (these are tiny swollen blood vessels in or around the anus) that can itch, be painful, and uncomfortable when passing a stool. Women who experience constipation may strain more when passing a stool and see a little fresh blood on wiping. Chat with your midwife or doctor to reassure you and for further advice as per some women they may recommend certain medications to help with this.

Eating a healthy diet rich in fibre, vegetables and fruit can help minimise constipation and haemorrhoids. Keep hydrated by drinking enough water that your pee looks straw coloured; and keep active.

Dry skin, breakouts, and discoloration

Remember that your skin is your body’s largest organ – so it’s no mystery as to why it can undergo changes during pregnancy. You may develop acne, patches of rough or dry skin, or areas of darkened pigmentation on your face and abdomen. It’s also very common to notice extra hair growth on your stomach, chin, arms, and other areas, too. A few months after your baby is born, you’ll more than likely shed the extra fuzz which has built up with the pregnancy hormones.

Talking to your healthcare provider

Although some women do feel great during pregnancy with glowing skin and heaps of energy, that’s not everyone’s reality. If being pregnant is physically unpleasant for you or you find yourself feeling more stressed and anxious, it’s a good idea to share how you are feeling with your midwife or doctor. They see many women who are feeling like this and they are trained to be able to give you some strategies which can help you cope and hopefully make you feel better. For some pregnant women it is also important that they seek more specialist support, and again, your midwife or doctor will be able to refer you to the right person or good online support resources. Please never feel scared to talk about this, it can be quite common for people to have periods during their pregnancy where they don’t feel completely sparkly and wonderful all the time, that’s normal. But if you are feeling like this fairly constantly all the time, your healthcare professional is there to help you get through this, and most importantly they want to help you.

References

1 Wambach K, Spencer B, editors. Breastfeeding and human lactation. Sixth edition. Burlington Massachusetts: Jones & Bartlett Learning; 2021. 807 p.